Down to one stabiliser


I’ve nearly completed my second year of Alexander Technique Teacher training, one more week to go, and time for the summer break.

It sounds like I’m looking forward to the break, I am but not. I think I need some time to reflect and absorb my training and personal changes over the past year. I need some rest as well. What I’ll miss is the contact and encouragement my teachers have given me over the past year.

I’m also looking forward to going to Limerick in a few weeks where I’ll meet loads of Alexander Teachers, if you want to meet and work together, please contact me.

Alexander Technique Teacher Training, is very much like learning to ride a bike. You can’t ride a bike unless you can, your need practice and hours and hours of practice to refine the art of riding a bike, just the same as the Alexander Technique.

If you just theorize about riding a bike you may become an expert in the observation of bike riding but if you try to ride a bike with just theory you will probably have a few falls and give up.

My learning journey has now past the theorizing stage, I finally realised a few weeks ago, that to understand the technique I have to be the technique; there’s no shortcuts, I was dearly hoping there was one somewhere!

I hung on there waiting for the shortcut until there was nowhere else to go, then I jumped or rather collapsed into a heap, confused but then I was free to move on.

At about this time my first stabiliser was removed, I’ve learnt in detail the various activities we practice on our own and working with other student and teachers however I still need one stabiliser and sometimes my teachers help to keep me balanced and to stop me falling off.

‘balanced’ in this context I mean; maintaining my thoughts and directions for myself and managing the volume of my thoughts and directions so others can sense them when needed.

Hopefully very soon I’ll be stabiliser free, then I can start learning the Alexander Technique for proper!

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JK got it wrong!


In the Harry Potter books, us mere mortals are named Muggles by the wizards. However in the Alexander world surely we should be called Muddles.

Let me explain, today at the Bristol Alexander School we had an away day at a stables, and we all had a chance to ride a horse. What I discovered is that the rider needs to communicate with the horse, not with heels, spurs, crop and reins but with just a thought.

What a terrible thought getting a horse to move, stop, turn with just a thought. Well, it really works, riders and horses have done it for millennia, I’ve just discovered it today.

When riding, the rider needs to give clear thoughts to the horse so he understands what to do. Any muddled thoughts and the horse will do something else of his choosing. Luckily for me my horse was held whilst he walked around the field, so no mishaps for me.

If horses are so sensitive to our thoughts and need a clear intent to do an activity, why don’t us mere mortal seem to survive with muddled thoughts.

Creatures of habit, leaps out from my mind. Perhaps a good thing if you just want to go with the flow and have a quiet life travelling on the glide slope to obscurity; just muddling on.

Or is there another way?

Stopping, inhibiting, observing the conditions present, deciding a means-whereby then with a clear intention commit to the intended thought; this seems to work for me. I’ve read about this somewhere!

So the wizards got it right for Muggles

Should AT folk start calling others Muddles?

Between my hands and …?


Yesterday, I blogged about my hands, this isn’t the full story. There’s plenty between my hands and … .

There’s a whole body and mind; why do we always split ourselves up in to bits? We wouldn’t function if we didn’t have everything to survive! SO why can’t we have a word for the whole self?

Moan over, and now I’m going to do what I’ve moaned about!

Between my hands and … , there are several systems, skeletal, muscular and the nervous system for a start and several more that I don’t know about anatomically may effect my use of my hands.

So what is … ?

Is it;

  • my hands and my brain
  • my hands and the ground I’m standing on
  • my hands and the seat I’m sitting on
  • my hands and the person I’m working with
  • my hands and the ground the person I’m working is standing on

The list goes on

What system is doing what?

Is it my systems or my pupils, are the systems bigger than just two people.

I just don’t care, as I don’t have the brainpower to understand all the nuances of all the systems and more that I have listed.

I just need to be quiet, with an observing presence without judgement or malice, with loving intent.

Then I need is just a thought, a throw away thought, that has the intent to do something. Say “In a moment I’m going to increase my forward and up thoughts and move my hands so that my pupil will move from sitting on the chair to standing, my hands will remain with my pupil until then are standing at their full height and then I’ll remove my hands from my pupil; all the time maintaining my directions” That I guess, would take a millisecond or so to develop that thought.

Let the thought go, wait and be amazed as the pupil rises from the chair with ease that matched your ease.

I was! 🙂

So it is good to know anatomically what systems we have, as we need to discuss and explain to our pupils in an established language they are comfortable with; body mapping. I feel is the essential to Alexander Technique work as many pupils including myself have a faulty sensory perception about where their body bits are.

But for hands on work I’m not too sure an anatomical understanding is needed, I’m happy to be convinced either way.

My Hand, My Hands


In the last two years my hands have changed shape, one of the many changes that have taken place within my body during my Alexander Technique Teacher Training. I’ve also become more bendy, that’s not my bones becoming flexible but my flex and extension range in my joints have increased; not bad for someone nearing state pensionable age.
If nothing else, this is a great reason for practicing the Alexander Technique.
But there is much more.
My hands, my hands, are far more sensing that they have ever been. It’s a skill, sensation that is available to all. It just needs time, patience and practicing my mind-body connection and just allowing the senses to work without interruption. The last two years I’ve been trying too hard to be good, it just doesn’t work, it just blocks senses, tightens inappropriate muscles, just doesn’t allow thing to be things.

Discovering that nothing is to be done, we have the capacity and skill within us, all takes time to realise and accept. The realisation is easy to grasp, it’s the acceptance that nothing is to be done is very difficult and even elusive; acceptance flies around like a butterfly, the more you try to catch it the more it moves, being still and waiting it may land near you and you can observe it’s beauty, Try to catch it again and it’s off.

My hands now have three roles;

  • normal working hands, writing, chopping vegetables, washing, lifting things
  • listening hands, just being quiet and observing by touch, there’s an awful lot of information to pick up and I guess my listening will improve with more practice
  • directing hands, giving my hands an intension with just a thought to move, with my hands on somebody and they will react to the intension and they will, say, stand up from sitting on a chair. For a newby this is just fantastic.

My perpetual pupil, my wife, gave me a back handed compliment by saying one day, will you please stop directing when you hold my hand. I didn’t know she could tell, i was so pleased 🙂

Self-empathy


Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

So why self-empathy?

Yesterday I wrote the blog Being ill brings back all the demons, one of the comments I received was from Lynn Brice Rosen about Compassion for Self. This got me thinking; having had a career in marine engineering, the tendency was to push and push to get things done in time for the ship to sail.  Some deadlines where extremely tight, once I managed to get off a ship in the lock as it was about to set to sea and another I was stuck on a ship for a few days before they could land me. These instances sort of set your mind.

Get things done on time or else.

Not very Alexandrian!

I never considered myself first, the job came first, if i wore myself out i wasn’t trying hard enough. Alcohol certainly smoothed the edges.

 pollington

I’m in the photo probably in both, top one in the engine room

and middle row in the centre

HMS Pollington M1173 Ships Company 1981 (1).galley_thumbHMS Pollington

I feel I’ve come along way since my days at sea. I served on ships as well as fixing them for others.

It’s taken me some time to understand that if I don’t look after myself I’m little help to anyone else. It’s the usual thing, knowing, understanding and doing are all miles apart, I’ve known and understood this concept but never done it, that’s until very recently.

I seem to have had different personalities, the knowledgable, the understanding and the accepting, The accepting never got look in, it’s easier to ponder and think than show the real me, nobody will like the real me, I even don’t know who he is, will I like him?

Probably not, I’ve never known him.

That’s where self-empathy helps, it allows the understanding and the knowledgable a chance to listen to the accepting and understand and share his feelings, and possibly give the accepting some space to grow and be an equal partner in my life. When it happened to me a few weeks ago it was utterly overwhelming, my friends really do love and care for me, they don’t play at it! I can be and am very content with myself and can allow compassion for myself and from my compassion I can pass it to others.

Unfortunately this self compassion is new to me and when I caught a cold i reverted to habit as I’ve written in my blog Being ill brings back all the demons. So thank you Lynn Brice Rosen for reminding about compassion for Self.

“And here’s where the Compassion for Self is so needed…. How often our AT awareness can pull us down [!!!] into self-criticism and judgment, when what’s most needed is the awareness & experiencing of both”

Does Compassion for Self = Self Empathy. 

Being ill brings back all the demons


There’s been a nasty cold going around the UK over the past few weeks I met up with it three weeks ago and still doesn’t want to leave me. When I went to the doctors last week, I got the news that this cold normally lasts around six weeks; so I’m only half way through.

Ugh.

I’ve been managing asthma quite happily for a few years using techniques I’ve learnt as a pupil and latterly as an Alexander Technique student teacher.

Then the cold struck and down I went and asthma rose, I reverted to what I used to like and I didn’t even notice! The asthma inhaler came out, feeling sorry for myself and couldn’t work out what to do. All I could do was to sit still.

For the first few days not a thought of semi-supine or a Whispered Ah; just feeling sorry for myself! Then the thoughts slowly filtered through; ah time for the Whispered Ah whilst lying down.

I got on the floor.

What a relief.

I quietened down and my breathing improved from very shallow breaths to lungs full of air, bliss.

I was shocked with myself how easy it was to revert to old habits when I got the cold, its got me wondering what other habits that I take for granted that are not so beneficial to me, I could do something else. It’s got me exploring, this morning on my Sunday morning swim I noticed that a gasp in air just before i put my  head under water to start swimming,  do I need this gasp, it’s not as if I’m racing, I swim just for fun, so why gasp?  It turns out that I don’t need to. Gasping is a pulling down so I’m starting my first stroke from a bad place. If I think forward and up with little care about my breath I seem to swim freer and I can always take a breath later on.

So my demons have helped me, why do I hold me breath when running?

I don’t run far!

Something else to explore and experiment with.

I should have stopped


This week I’ve had and still do have a stinking cold, enough to stay at home and miss a few days at work, but not enough to miss my Alexander Teacher Training; how wrong was I!

On Friday I decided to attend but just receive any helping hands to be worked on, it was great, my symptoms dissipated, I guess the cold was pulling me down and the teachers and fellow students work got my directions going up again, I thought I was over the cold.

So yesterday, time for school again, I forgot Friday’s decision to receive but instead worked on my teachers and a couple students. I was like working with brain full of cottonwool; AT and a brain full of cottonwool just don’t mix.

I should have stopped working with my fellow students

I should have stopped working with my teachers

I should have stopped going to school for the day

I should have staying in bed!

The moral to the tale is to listen to my body and not push on regardless it just doesn’t work.

Bed

My groundhog day


My 2nd February has probably lasted as long as Phil Connors, the synopsis IMDb > Groundhog Day (1993) > Synopsis recons Phil’s was around 10 years; i may be still be in my Groundhog Day loop how knows.

My 6am call wasn’t  Sonny & Cher singing “I got you babe” but me knocking on my Alexander teachers door for another lesson, the lessons are now a blur but they seemed to be repetitive initially as I was learning to stop, though I was probably told to stop, I didn’t take the instructions in, neither did I stop. Rather like Phil’s suicide attempts then his 6am alarm again/ my knocking on the door again and again.

I then realised that I had to do something about something, it was time to understand something but what?

Stopping seemed to be a good idea, but I only paused really, I know that now but I thought I was really stopping. There’s a bit difference between stopping and pausing, when I stop I have a choice to do something else, with a pause I was just waiting to continue the same old thing, just like pausing a video.

Choices, choices, choices, is the name of the game: once you understand that is what life is about then you can live. Watching your favourite soap in TV is not a choice, it’s a habit thats stealing your time.

Understanding about choices isn’t the same as doing the choices, you need to be the choices.

Phil’s went through this realisation, finding out what Rita liked and loved and he became the expert in them; Jazz piano, French, ice sculpturing, but Rita still didn’t want him. He gave up with trying and became himself, and in response became the most beloved man in town, and in the morning it’s the 3rd of February and Rita is by his side planning to live together.

I had my first realisation of non-doing and stopping a few weeks ago, the difficulty is doing the non-doing, its so hard not to do and allow. Not doing and allowing is such a wonderful place to be in

The moral of the movie is to be honest and love yourself and then people will respond to you and may even love you back. Rather like the Alexander Technique.

I thought a was OK but little did I know


Sometime years ago my Alexander Teacher gave me a questionnaire to fill in, I think it went of the STAT for analysis. One of the question was about why you choose the Alexander Technique. I replied about something about that it improved my wellbeing.

Improving my wellbeing was the truth but not the full truth, it was the only truth I could see. The real reason was well hidden in layers of protection and denial. I enjoyed the calm, peace and space I received during each lesson.

Looking back, I must have been a difficult student but I kept going back for more lessons.

On reflection, I was a bull in a china shop, I just wanted to plough on no matter what, I couldn’t stop as I would be found out that I was a fraud, I didn’t deserve the life my wife and I have built from scratch, something bad would happen if I stopped, I must keep going. My Alexander lessons were a 40 minute sanctuary where I could hide and be safe.

When the questionnaire appeared I was in a state of self loathing though successful in my work and my personal relationships. I had difficulty in breathing apart from the 40 minutes a week. I recon I was a mess.

Perhaps improving my wellbeing was right, when I started of this blog the plan was to get around to saying, “I use the Alexander Technique to manage my asthma”. Asthma was just a subset of my problems and at the time wasn’t accessable during a lesson. I seem to remember the majority of lessons were about stopping and non-doing but I didn’t really do the non-doing, I just paused for 40 minutes. I must have gotten something out of the lessons as I’m now doing my teacher training. It’s from what I know now I can reflect on the past. Stopping and non-doing have been a real challenge for me, i’m a doing sort of person, I like to get my back into things.

This non-doing stuff, can’t I just bypass it get on with things?

Changing from a doer to a non-doer takes time, for me a few years. I’m on the brink of becoming a non-doer, hence this flurry of blogs; I’ve been holding in for years and I want to let it out now. Being a non-doer gives me time to reflect and get things done, a real oxymoron. Having time to reflect gives time to plan and do with efficiency, effectively and efficaciously just as FM envisaged. And whoever or whatever was chasing me has given up the chase.

There’s more than just the Whispered Ah for asthma control


In the last blogs I’ve eulogised the Whispered Ah but this only a small part of what has helped me to get my asthma under control.

The Whispered Ah is functional and doing activity or it can be, when first experimenting and have little experience of the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is about inhibition, non-doing  and direction, so initially the Whispered Ah doesn’t seem to fit with non-doing. It may have been devised as a deflective alternative activity to break a habit of poor breathing, I’m being deliberately vague of what poor breathing is.

Perhaps FM Alexander took the Whispered Ah from whom ever invented the activity and applied the Alexander Principles.

I recon from my experience asthma sufferers just push on with what they are doing as whatever the cost, in Alexander terms  they end-gain, I needed to stop doing this by non-doing, putting myself in neutral, when in neutral strange things start to happen, maybe sounds become clearer, you hear a clock ticking for the first time, vision softens and becomes clearer, you sense the clothes touching your body, someone else’s body heat, in short, you notice what your senses have been reporting all along but you’ve need to busy to notice.

From this neutral place inhibition is available ‘Conscious and ongoing prevention of habitual interference with optimum poise’; there’s a lot of detail in this quote which will have to wait for another day.

Whilst inhibiting plan your next move, perhaps initiate a Whispered Ah but this don’t just do the Ah, have a thought of the Whispered Ah, keep the thought in your head and don’t visit the parts you thought of i.e your diaphragm, rib, tongue etc. Once you have established your thought let is go and allow the Whispered Ah to happen. I find the quality quite different from the doing Whispered Ah.

Give it a go.

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